Hope Isn’t Blind: It’s a Way to Build Trust and Manage Anxiety

Some anxieties are essential, and for millennia they kept our ancestors alive. But there's another type of anxiety that we can actually do away with—and it's defeated via hope.

Victoria McGeer: I think of trust and hope as being really quite closely related and oftentimes we trust without really having to worry too much about whether the person we’re trusting is able to do what we’re trusting them with. Maybe they’re a very reliable type and we trusted them in the past with this sort of thing, and we don’t really—we’re not too worried about their capacity for living up to that trust. But very often we’re having to trust under conditions where we’re a little more uncertain. Or where we think there’s some sort of, as it were, almost moral obligation. Certainly it can be a sort of parental obligation to trust, for example, our children, when we think maybe they’re not fully reliable yet. And they may well disappoint us, but it’s certainly an important part of raising those children to understand that they are going to be asked to do things, they are going to be relied on in various ways. It’s a way of allowing them to develop those capacities to be responsive to trust, which is a very important feature of human social life. And there I think we do need to energize our trust with our own capacity to hope—that means something very particular for me. That is to say when we hope for things, we’re always facing the fact that we could be disappointed. And we’re facing that disappointment sort of in a clear-eyed way—that is, if we’re hoping well. And we’re saying, you know, I understand what the stakes are here but I think this is an important thing to do and it’s important to regulate my own anxiety about this.

So I use my hope to put certain worries offline, as it were, to just not focus on them. To focus instead on what could be, under the right sort of conditions and giving whatever support is necessary to make that come about. But, of course, I have to, as a hoper, realize that I could be disappointed and also therefore that I have the kind of capacity to recover from disappointment. That’s a very important part of hoping well.

In this refreshing take on the utility of hope, Princeton research scholar Victoria McGeer explains that there's a difference between blind hope and practical hope. The latter means taking a clear-eyed view of potential disappointment, knowing that there may be failure, and then putting your anxieties offline by trusting in the elements that are beyond your control. Trust is a critical feature of human social life, and we're often obligated to trust in uncertain circumstances: trust your kids, trust that stranger, trust your neighbor. Hope, when done properly, can fortify trust, reduce anxiety, and actually give you the tools to cope with disappointment. This video was filmed as part of the Los Angeles Hope Festival, a collaboration between Big Think and Hope & Optimism.

Become a speed-reading machine: Read dozens of books next year

Tripling your reading speed with just 15 minutes of practice each day, and boost your ability to retain what you read.

Gear
  • Speed reading training can double, or even triple your reading speed in 30 days.
  • Results can be seen with just minutes of practice each day.
  • Training also focuses on memory retention and skill acquisition.
Keep reading Show less

The Sooner You Expose A Baby To A Second Language, The Smarter They’ll Be

Just hearing two languages helps babies develop cognitive skills before they even speak. Here's how - and how you can help them develop those skills.

Personal Growth

A new study shows that babies raised in bilingual environments develop core cognitive skills like decision-making and problem-solving -- before they even speak.

Keep reading Show less

China tightens its grip on freedom in academics

Scholars often debate risking their livelihoods and personal safety in order to conduct research in certain areas.

Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Authoritarian governments that rely heavily on coercion must be more intrusive about how education shapes the personality and character of its members.
  • In China, there are topics that scholars know to avoid — especially, the Three Ts: Taiwan, Tibet, and Tiananmen Square.
  • While the majority of scholars are likely toeing the party line when it comes to their research, some are working toward encouraging academic freedom in the country, often at significant risk to themselves and their families.
Keep reading Show less